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Symposium Clinician Profile: Gordon Young

Note: This is the first in a five part series highlighting the clinicians who will present at this summer’s NorCal Premier Soccer Coaching Symposium. Coaches can sign up for the event, which takes place June 7-9 at the Oakland Roots training facility, by clicking here.

For those involved with coaching in Northern California, Gordon Young is no stranger, having presented at several different coaching education opportunities hosted by NorCal Premier Soccer over the past decade.

This summer, the former Latvia Men’s National Team and Dundee United assistant head coach, Motherwell F.C Academy Director and  Sheffield United International Academy Manager, returns to the area with a fresh take on how coaches can provide a difference given all the challenges that have popped in the past few years.

“In the last couple of years, because of the pandemic and the amount of webinars and Zoom calls that we’ve all been on, we need a reset in what we do as coaches to develop players regardless of their age,” Young said. “We’ve got a responsibility that we’ve gone away from, which is the ability to deliver on the grass, to set the standards of how we operate individually and how that translates to the audience we’re tasked with improving.

“Our job is to take players to a level that they can’t take themselves.”

While his past lessons have covered a variety of different topics that Young has learned in multiple decades of coaching at the highest levels and in the youth game, the UEFA Pro License coach will focus on the idea of creating club wide signature practices.

The idea behind a signature practice, a rough session plan that different coaches can use for all age groups, is to establish said practice as a constant, making the players and their level the variable.

Essentially, through the structure of these signature practices, coaches should be able to better evaluate players regardless of their age or gender.

“We’re coming off of a three or four year spell where everyone has been online and away from the grass so how do we gauge the level we’re delivering with the individual player and team performances?” Young said. “If we have signature practices that everyone at the club is aware of, that are age and stage specific, we can more easily evaluate what level everyone is at.”

“For example, if we have 50 coaches at a club, working in eight or nine different age groups, and everyone’s doing their own thing, then how can we easily understand what level our players are at?” Young added. “However, if we have standardized practices or signature drills, an academy director or coach can pop into a session at any time and immediately see the level.”

According to Young, the origins of this idea harken all the way back to one of his first jobs, as a U19 coach for Motherwell.

During that year, every single session Young ran was different as he wanted to keep the players engaged and provide as much information as possible throughout the year.

“When I debriefed at the end of the year, I calculated that because I was doing a different drill every morning, I was losing 10-15 minutes of the session because of my explanation,” he said. “If I multiplied that for the whole year, I lost a week’s worth of coaching. From then on, that was 20 years ago, I started to look at signature practices that could be universal, but by doing a lot of similar practices, there was less instruction time and your ability to gauge how they’re doing was easier.”

With this lesson, and undoubtedly many more, Young is excited to make his return to the symposium after previously presenting at past editions.

“The symposium is successful because there are different clinicians coming from different scenarios,” he said. “But everything has to be relative–there’s no point in me just going there for entertainment value, it’s got to be relative. The DOC or the coaches in Walnut Creek or Fresno for example need to understand things that can help them in their day to day roles. People love to hear stories about blue ribbon coaching at the very top level, but everything presented has to be practical, it has to be information they can circulate.”